ON NOV 08 IN EBOOK PUBLISHING, NEWSPAPER AND MAGAZINE PUBLISHING, SLIDERS, UNCATEGORIZED BY RYAN VETTER
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The Apple Newton MessagePad, Apple’s ‘failed’ PDA, is sitting on my desk. It’s alate model 2100, which was the last iteration Newton MessagePad to ship back in 1998. Every time I use one, I immediately think of a tablet computer, both because of its size and functionality: it’s much more than just a small, simple PDA.
But it’s more nostalgia than anything: the Newton was pretty much before my time. Today’s technology is quite a bit more advanced than when the Newton had itsrun. From powerful mobile processors and graphics chips, to high-resolution screens and high speed wireless connectivity, mobile devices today well eclipse not only the Newton, but even the most powerful consumer desktop computers of the time.
The Newton is an interesting device though, not the least of which because it spawned an entire industry of handheld PDAs. It’s what the Newtonexemplifies that is notable. That is, it was the peak of Apple’s prior research and development on portable, slate-like (tablet) computers.
Now that Apple has released the market-leading iPad, with a barrage of other tablet computers and dedicated eReaders flooding the market, it’s worthwhile to look back and see where all of this came from. The focus will be on Apple, and their history with tabletcomputers.
Apple’s history with tablet computers dates back to at least 1979. A good stock of the following pictures and associated captions/background information are themselves derived from the book,AppleDesign, The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, by Paul Kunkel/Photos by Rick English (1997).
Roll the curtains…
The Apple Graphics Tablet (1979) – pictured at left – was the beginning oftablet computers at Apple. It’s a crude example of a modern Wacom Tablet. As illustrated in a 1981 Apple Spring Catalogue, “The Apple Graphics Tablet turns your Apple II system into an artist’s canvas. The tablet offers an exciting medium with easy-to-use ”tools” and techniques for creating and displaying pictorial information”. It was developed by Summagraphics, and uses magnetostriction. Thebuilt-in alloy wires localize a stylus on the x, y, and z axis points. Software entitled, “Utopia Graphics System”, developed by musician Tod Rundgren, was the paint program that it worked with.
Moving along to 1983…
It was 1983, and a new firm, frog design, was hired by Apple to come up with designs for many of Apple’s new products, both real and imagined. bashful was the start of Apple’s researchinto ‘true’ tablet computers. frog design was the primary design firm that was responsible for Apple’s Snow White industrial design language used throughout much of the 1980s. It was this new design language at Apple that separated its new products from those products predicated with their old design language.
Apple initiated this new design movement because it wanted to be a world-class computercompany with beautiful design. It was truly design first, worry about the engineering later. In fact, many of the designers involved with the designs you are going to see had little-to-no experience designing computers. But they were top designers in their fields.
At a time when the personal computer was in its infancy, it was an ambitious approach to operate this way. Most all other computercompanies were led by the constraints of engineering. Things are supposed to be big and ugly first, then beautified much later when the underlying parts become miniaturized and simplified. But Apple sort of took the approach of putting the cart before the horse. Today, Apple carries the same policy: design leads, engineering follows.
The Snow White design language permeated Apple’s products from...